There was all kinds of crazy on Monday night’s The Bachelor (who can forget Kelsey’s bizarre pre-rose ceremony breakdown?!), but the biggest bombshell of all was when contestant Britt Nilsson admitted she hadn’t washed her hair in a week. (This may confirm Michelle Money’s joke about Britt not showering on the show’s live premiere.) As great as she looks sans-shower, this begs the question: How often do you really need one? Experts reveal the consequences of not showering, skipping shampoo for a week, and sleeping with your makeup on.
When You Don’t Shower…
Your main concern when you skip a shower is moisture accumulation on the skin, not necessarily a buildup of dirt throughout the day. That said, if you hit the gym, you can’t skip the shower.
“Keeping moist, salty sweat soaked clothing close to your skin for long periods after working out leads to irritation and the increased risk of small abrasions or skin breakdown,” says Holly L. Phillips, M.D., a women’s health physician and medical contributor to CBS News in New York City. “This can raise your risk of bacterial and fungal infections, like staph bacteria or the fungus that causes jock itch.” If you don’t have the time to shower, Phillips says it’s imperative to at least change your clothes.
How long can you forgo a shower if you don’t work out? “That all depends on how forgiving your friends and family are of your ‘natural’ scent,” says Phillips. “But in hot, sweaty climates, moisture in your clothes could be as much of an issue as if you worked out. A daily rinse down with soap is a good thing.”
When You Don’t Wash Your Hair…
“If you don’t wash your hair every two to three days you will get a greasy, oily buildup,” says George Rylander, a master stylist at New York City-based Dop Dop Salon. “Your hair will look and feel dirty and start to smell as it takes in the smells of the environment.” This can also contribute to knots and eventually split ends.
But the amount of time acceptable between washes depends, of course, on hair type. Someone with thicker hair like Britt’s can add a few more days in between her shampoos. However, don’t take it too far. “With going a week or more without washing, you will start to find that your head will get itchy and you can find yourself with clogged follicles,” says celebrity stylist Randi Peterson.
Rylander offers some simple tips for off-shampoo days. “Spray dry shampoo before bed at the nape of the neck and the top of hair so it won’t be oily in the morning,” he says. “Also spray dry shampoo and massage into hair throughout the course of the day if looking oily.”
When You Sleep With Your Makeup on…
If you fall asleep with your makeup on once in a while it won’t have a major impact, except for a buildup of debris and dead skin cells, explains Adriana Martino, a laser medical esthetician and cofounder of NYC’s SKINNEY Medspa. “However, over time it will lead to premature aging of the skin due to excessive buildup and not allowing the skin to rebuild and repair. This can lead to fine lines and dull-looking skin.”
At night, your skin actively repairs itself—and sleeping with your makeup on prevents this renewal process. When the pores become clogged, it “increases your chances of milia [whiteheads] and blackheads,” says Martino. “You are also polluting your skin with environmental elements by not rinsing and cleansing your skin.”
While mascara may seem harmless, the effects are just as bad. “It can clog eyelash follicles which leads to your lashes falling out,” says Martino.
If you’re expecting a sexy farmer from Iowa to wake you up at 4:30 a.m. for a romantic date, Martino suggests wearing an oil-free tinted moisturizer or a mineral makeup likes Susan Posnick’s Colorflo Foundation ($68, susanposnick.com). Hydrating moisturizers with foundation built in are also less likely to clog pores.
More From Women’s Health:
5 Ways Your Shower Is Making You Look Worse
16 Problems Only Women Who Wear Makeup Understand
An Expert Weighs in on Andi Dorfman’s Eyebrow Transformation